Even though English has long been the de facto lingua franca in Qatar, the sheer diversity of the population means that proficiency in the language varies widely.
That may be why some 40 percent of Qatar companies questioned in a recent survey said that language differences in the workplace have had a negative impact on their bottom line.
According to the survey, which was conducted by Peden Consulting, a group that specializes in language development, only 2 percent of respondents identified one common native language among staff members in their companies.
Nearly half said five or more different native languages were spoken in the workplace. And some 52 percent affirmed that communication problems impact the ability of employees to get work done.
A number of training courses in English proficiency have cropped up in Qatar to deal with these language issues, but Ryan Peden, managing consultant, said not all are created equal.
In an interview with The Edge magazine, he said:
“With so much of business relying on written communication like e-mails and reports, writing skills can lead to misunderstandings that impact workplace performance.
This is a common problem for most non-native speakers of English regardless of where they come from, and training options to overcome this need to focus on practice and feedback over a period of time and not just a single workshop or other quick-fix solutions.”
The second annual survey also found that while the English proficiency of Qataris was improving, not enough attention was placed on the development of other staff members, especially non-management.
“Training for lower levels of staff is also important for some organisations, particularly those who have a large number of lower level staff in client-facing positions, for example in service-based industries,” Peden said.
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